Could Run-of-Mill French Suburb Be Global Model of Religious Tolerance?

Jews Join Other Faith in 'Esplanade of Religions'

Faithful Experiment: Jews are joined by leaders of other faiths at a Tu B’Shvat tree-planting ceremony in the Paris suburb of Bussy-Saint-Georges.
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Faithful Experiment: Jews are joined by leaders of other faiths at a Tu B’Shvat tree-planting ceremony in the Paris suburb of Bussy-Saint-Georges.

By Anne Cohen

Published May 05, 2013, issue of May 10, 2013.
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Despite the inspirational promise of this project, the Jewish community’s full participation is threatened by a more mundane concern: financing.

Jewish leaders have played a prominent part in the planning, but they have raised only 10% of the 1 million euros needed for construction of the synagogue. Meanwhile, the Taiwanese temple already stands tall, and the Muslim community has broken ground on its mosque.

“We’re falling behind the others because we’re a smaller community,” explained Claude Windisch, current president of J’Buss. “The Jewish community in France hasn’t yet understood the importance of what we’re trying to do here. It’s a project that goes beyond Bussy-Saint-Georges.”

After meeting formally at the Tu B’Shvat ceremony, the Taiwanese ambassador to France extended a formal invitation to Windisch and Benarousse to visit the Jewish community in Taipei to discuss fundraising for the project. They hope to mount a fundraising trip to New York, but that remains a pipe dream for now.

Despite the logistical setbacks, Benarousse remains positive about the future of Jews in Bussy and their role in the Esplanade. Even if it takes time to build a new synagogue, Rondeau says it is crucial that the Jewish community have a visible place in the town.

“When you have a synagogue, it means your community exists,” the mayor said. “In this population of 25,000, there are Jews.”

Contact Anne Cohen at cohen@forward.com


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